On Monday, three Russian individuals and five companies were sanctioned after confirming that they had worked on cyber-attacks to the U.S. and its allies. They had worked with Moscow’s military and intelligence services and were penalized by the U.S. Treasury.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held a press conference where he explained in detail the recent procedures by his department. He stated:

“The United States is engaged in an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities. The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia’s cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the [Russia’s Federal Security Service] and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies”

One of the confirmed attacks done by these individuals was the NotPetya attack in 2017, which was mostly targeted towards Ukraine and spread towards several other countries, such as the U.S. and Spain. The virus mainly caused for data to be deleted and for users to be unable to recover it over long periods of time. The White House had previously identified Russia as the source for the virus and highlighted that it was another step in the years-long constant Russia-Ukraine conflict. It cost billions of dollars in damage for all governments involved.

According to Mnuchin, the attacks also confirmed Russia’s use of undersea communication cables in order to gather significant amounts of data from many parts of the world. The five companies involved are Digital Security, ERPScan, Embedi, Kvant Scientific Research Institute, and Divetechnoservices. The three individuals involved had direct relations with the latter.

While this is the most recent time Russia has been sanctioned by the U.S., it’s not the first. The previous U.S. administration sanctioned Moskow’s Federal Security Service, due to alleged harassment to American officials and direct involvement in the 2016 elections through cyber operations. The intelligence services were also sanctioned earlier this year after the Trump administration accused Moskow of the cyber attacks, which have allegedly occurred throughout the last two years. The attacks targeted the U.S. power grid.

These procedures have not calmed down the accusations towards the President regarding his relationship with the Russians. The investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller still continues and moves forward as it tries to find whether he and his campaign officials colluded with Russians for advantages during the 2016 elections. Trump recently gained attention due to an exchange with reporters in which he mentioned that Russia should be re-integrated to the Group of Seven alliance. He was heading to Quebec when he made the comments, and he stated to the press:

Russia should be in this meeting. Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? And I would recommend — and it’s up to them, but Russia should be in the meeting, it should be a part of it. You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run and the G-7 — which used to be the G-8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

Not only did this statement push forward the theories of collusion, but also it undermined the reason why the country was expelled from the alliance. Russia, who joined the then G8 during the nineties, was expelled in 2014 due to conflicts and military intervention with Ukraine, which was disapproved by the other members of the group. The lack of an explanation for Trump’s request only made suspicions grow bigger.

Another instance that has raised concerns was when Donald Trump Jr. confirmed that he met with Russian officials in hopes to receive negative information of his father’s political opponents.

Featured Image via President of Russia

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